Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial
Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW
Dear Ms. O'Dell:
The Commission of Fine Arts appreciated the opportunity to hear the information presentation on design options for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial at its meeting of 20 May. The Commission members expressed their general support for the direction of the memorial design by Gehry Partners and identified several issues to be addressed as a concept design is developed.
In their discussion of the preferred scheme presented by the architect, the Commission members commented that the proposed scale of tapestry screens and colossal columns in an array helps to establish a sense of place for the memorial in its urban context— resulting in a space that implies the presence of an absent building. They noted that the preferred scheme creates an attractive tension between the massiveness of the columns and the delicacy of the mesh screens. However, they suggested further development of the character and design of the tapestries—including the number and extent of the screens, the method of supporting the screens, the typology and narrative content of the images, the transparency of the mesh fabric, and the means of creating images within the fabric.
The Commission members identified numerous site design issues to be explored as the concept design is developed, such as the width and articulation of the Maryland Avenue viewshed and its physical definition within the memorial precinct; they also suggested the conceptual treatment of the south side of the site as a passage that clearly separates the memorial from the Department of Education Building. With the goal of creating an intimate commemorative space within the urban-scale enclosure, the Commission members commented that the design of the ground plane should be considered as a background to the inner focus of the memorial itself; they suggested a calmer treatment with fewer elements within the space rather than the sprawling composition of meandering paths, groves, mounds, and outbuildings. The Commission members agreed that figural sculpture in this scheme is unnecessary, particularly given the anticipated visual prominence of images in the metal tapestries.
The Commission noted several other technical issues that should be addressed in developing the concept design: the potential inclusion of perimeter security elements; the resolution of the street configuration; and the performance of the memorial in a wide range of seasonal conditions, including summer heat and the winter accumulation of snow and ice on the mesh.
The Commission looks forward to a formal review of the project. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Margaret O'Dell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Peter May, National Park Service
Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners
Joe Brown, AECOM